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Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Page: 2344

Mr HART (Bass) (19:40): I rise today to speak about my island state. There is a state election to be held on 3 March 2018. The incompetent Tasmanian Liberal government, led by Will Hodgman, does not deserve to be re-elected. I say that the Tasmanian Liberal government does not deserve re-election for a number of reasons. Firstly, this government has treated our public health system as a piggy bank. The first thing Will Hodgman did upon being elected was to cut $210 million from our public hospital system. The Tasmanian healthcare system has slid into crisis as a consequence of the mismanagement by the Liberal government and a failure to understand the importance of properly funding and resourcing our public health system.

Labor has campaigned primarily on the issue of health. There is no doubt the Tasmanian public hospital system is in crisis. There are significant delays in accessing our emergency departments; elective surgery waiting lists are unacceptable; and at my local public hospital, the Launceston General Hospital, there are have been significant difficulties in attracting and retaining specialist staff. In particular, the Launceston General Hospital has recently lost its head of surgery, and there is significant controversy with respect to the renewal of the contract for a visiting specialist orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Gary Fettke.

Secondly, this Tasmanian Liberal government talks big about spending on infrastructure but fails to deliver on new projects and to argue Tasmania's case for federally funded infrastructure projects. Tasmania's share of the federal infrastructure budget has dropped dramatically. Blame for that should lie with the Turnbull federal Liberal government, but the state Liberal government bears responsibility for its incompetence and inability to argue the case for important infrastructure spending, such as tourism infrastructure, sewerage and water infrastructure, the Bridgewater Bridge replacement and other important strategic infrastructure. In question time today, the member for Grayndler asked the Deputy Prime Minister why his government's own budget papers show federal infrastructure investment in Tasmania will decline from $174 million this financial year to $53 million in 2019-20. He also asked why there'd been no federal government funding for a single new major rail or road project in the state in nearly five years. It is simply not good enough that the Hodgman Liberal government didn't even ask its federal Liberal counterparts for funding for many of these important projects until the current election cycle.

Thirdly, despite claiming that its government represents a model of financial responsibility, the actions of the Liberal government in the course of this election campaign speak completely otherwise. I can well understand how local sporting organisations, RSLs and community organisations appreciate being funded by a generous government as part of pre-election largesse. I also understand the attraction of projects like that announced for my electorate, including a new bridge across the Tamar River. However, everyone needs to be concerned that this Liberal government believes that a good government involves keeping the purse strings tight during a period of government and then effectively blowing the budget during an election campaign. The Liberals have blown nearly $1.7 million in their promises made to the Tasmanian electorate as part of their desperate attempt to cling to power. There is nothing sustainable, nothing strategic and nothing visionary about the Liberal Party's campaign commitments. They represent shallow, base politics, the politics of the pork barrel.

Tasmanians are entitled to expect better than this from their government and from those seeking to form a government. This is why Labor has taken a responsible, cautious view about its financial commitments to the Tasmanian electorate. Labor's unabashed priority is to fix the Tasmanian health system. Rebecca White's plan involves the investment of additional money and resources into the Tasmanian health system earlier rather than later. The Liberal response is to promise to invest money, including money to be spent in a prospective third term. The health crisis is an immediate issue, something which deserves priority. Tasmanian voters understand that the promise of expenditure which depends upon the re-election of a Tasmanian Liberal government to a third term in office is not a credible response to that present crisis.

Tasmanian Labor has a different vision for Tasmania and for Tasmanians. Tasmanian Labor wants Tasmania to be the education state. Investment in our TAFE system and investment in our primary and secondary schools will improve educational attainment, and this will mean that more Tasmanian people will have better qualifications and skills to address the uncertainty of work in the future.

This is a watershed moment for my state. It is an opportunity for Tasmanians to vote for a positive future and to vote for health and education.